update deskIsrael News

Knesset opens summer session amid protests

Protests marked the day, as lawmakers aim to tackle the issues of ultra-Orthodox enlistment and the economic fallout from the ongoing war against Hamas.

The Global Women's Coalition Against Gender Based Violence as a Weapon of War at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 20, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
The Global Women's Coalition Against Gender Based Violence as a Weapon of War at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 20, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israel’s Knesset opened its summer session on Monday, also hailed as “Disruption Day” by anti-government protesters, who held demonstrations at multiple locations throughout the country.

At least 12 people were arrested after clashes broke out between police and protesters who blocked the main highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

“Today we are doing [this] because we understand that in order for this country to continue to exist, this government must go,” said the Brothers in Arms organization.

Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch called the protesters “anarchists,” and said their actions were harming the country

“The State of Israel is fighting in several sectors. Our soldiers in Gaza are risking their lives to return the kidnapped and defeat Hamas. At the same time, a group of anarchists is trying to harm the country during ‘Disruption Day,’” he tweeted.

“Blocking roads, disrupting and harming the proper conduct of the state is a crime,” he wrote, adding, “Just ridiculous.”

The main priorities for the summer session will be sorting out the Haredi conscription bill and addressing the economic fallout from the war against Hamas, including the fact that tens of thousands of residents of northern Israel have still not returned to their homes, lawmakers’ offices told JNS.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week tabled a version of the enlistment bill approved by the previous government.

“​​To bridge the differences and bring about a broad consensus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to advance the conscription bill that passed the first reading in the previous Knesset (Amendment 26 to the Defense Service Law),” said Netanyahu’s office.

“The bill was prepared by the defense establishment after thorough staff work and submitted by the then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz. … The prime minister calls on all factions that supported the proposal in the previous Knesset to join the proposal.”

The draft legislation sets targets for ultra-Orthodox conscription, capping at 35% of male students by 2036. Additionally, it allows for a roughly 85%-15% split between military and national service for the ultra-Orthodox.

If the targets are not met, the bill stipulates that hefty fines be levied on noncompliant yeshivahs.

The haredi enlistment bill was one of the top agenda items during last year’s summer session as well—alongside judicial reform—but the matter was postponed until after the fall recess, which ended at the same time the current war began, resulting in its being shelved until now.

The opening sessions on Monday several times descended into screaming matches as family members of Israelis being held by Hamas in Gaza took lawmakers to task over the government’s conduct of the war.

There are currently 128 hostages still being held in Gaza. Israeli forces operating in Jabalia in northern Gaza recovered the bodies of four hostages on May 18.

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